Washington, D.C.—In a letter made public on April 12, 2018, a group of 31 civil society groups and leaders asked Vice President Mike Pence to address the high number of assassinations of Colombian human rights and social justice leaders, a phenomenon which threatens to undermine the full implementation of Colombia’s historic 2016 peace deal, which ended over 50 years of civil conflict.
Vice President Pence is attending the Eighth Summit of the Americas in Lima, Peru from April 12-13. According to a spokesperson, he is set to meet with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at some point during the Summit, reported Reuters.
As previously noted by the Washington Office on Latin America, an estimated 30 human rights defenders have been killed thus far in 2018, the majority of them leaders in Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities.
“Threats against these leaders undermine their ability to play a vital accountability role in documenting human rights abuses related to corruption and trafficking,” the letter states. “Weakening these communities cedes control to paramilitary forces, narco-traffickers and corrupt elements in Colombia’s security forces, [and] ultimately undermines Colombia’s fragile peace and over 20 years of U.S. investments to achieve security and stability.”
Co-sponsors of the letter include the Afro-Colombian Solidarity Network, the Latin America Working Group, Freedom House, and others.